Belfast Telegraph

Anger as minister delays rulings on Derry developments

By Donna Deeney

Traders are angry after Environment Minister Alex Attwood further postponed an announcement of seven major planning applications in Londonderry, originally due at the end of June.

The applications include several major retail developments and at least one hotel, with developers keen for a decision in time to be ready for City of Culture year 2013.

The minister was to give his decision in early July, but this was delayed while he awaited the findings of a Retail Impact Study and a second provisional date was given for the end of July.

As that date has come and gone, Mr Attwood has now revealed that he will come to Derry in three weeks, but only to outline the conclusions of the impact studies, not to make known his decisions on the applications.

He said: “The next step in the process is to make an announcement and explain the findings of a planning study about retail demand and potential in the city.

“This is a core element in advance of making the right, balanced and informed decisions on outstanding retail applications.

“I plan to come to Derry on August 29, three weeks away, to outline the conclusions of the Retail Impact Study and map out where things will then go.

“On the far side of the visit on August 29, decisions on the applications will be taken and made known. I will not rush my fences, but decisions are coming and coming soon. The announcement of August 29 and what follows from it will define Derry retail for a long number of years.”

However, the city’s Independent Traders Forum chairman is convinced the minister has already decided and wants Alex Attwood to “come clean”.

Martin McCrossan added: “I just do not accept that the minister has not yet decided which of these major applications he is going to approve.

“He is being grossly unfair and disrespectful to everyone involved, including existing city centre retailers, potential retailers and the thousands who work in the city centre.

“I am getting calls on a daily basis from people who are considering opening in the city centre as well as from existing business people who are wondering if it is worth their while struggling on.”

Belfast Telegraph

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